“Heganism.” Veganism…for men.
What is wrong with drinking diet soda, using body lotion, or eating vegan? These are things that women stereotypically do. Because women are one of the most detested and devalued groups in society, the association between women and veganism becomes problematic for the marketplace. To protect fragile masculinity and encourage men to consume in perceived safety, the stigma must be removed by creating a “masculine” alternative in line with hegemonic masculinity. In this way, men can ritually perform their masculinity through their spending practices.
Masculinity is defined largely in what it is not, and it is not feminine. The construction of masculinity works in much the same way as does speciesism. We define humanity as being not animal, and therefore humanity is superior by comparison. This is also thought to be one of the root causes of heterosexism: masculinity is defined by ostracizing that which is feminine. Differentiating persons into groups and then placing them on a hierarchy to support these differentiations feeds structural discrimination.
The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is comprised mostly of women because food is gendered and being concerned for the welfare of Nonhuman Animals is also gendered. There is no genetic predisposition for women to be advocates for other animals; it is a product of socialization. Men’s discomfort with veganism and anti-speciesism also stems from socialization.
Aggravating sexist understandings of Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy can only encumber efforts to achieve Nonhuman Animal liberation. Heganism works to assuage fragile masculinity to encourage men’s participation. In doing so, however, it reinforces the notion that veganism is essentially “for women” and that men will be stigmatized if they participate without veganism being explicitly defeminized.
The otherizing of women, however, is exactly the type of otherization that sustains speciesism. Hierarchies must be dismantled, woman-hating must be challenged, and all persons–be they men, women, human, or nonhuman–should be acknowledged as sentient beings worthy of equal moral consideration.
A version of this essay was originally published on March 5, 2013.
Readers can learn more about the social movement politics of Nonhuman Animal rights and veganism in my 2019 publication, Piecemeal Protest: Animal Rights in the Age of Nonprofits. The beautiful cover art for this text was created by vegan artist Lynda Bell and prints are available on her website, artbylyndabell.com.
Readers can learn more about the sexism in vegan advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.
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